Trump wants a do-over
Donald Trump isn’t ready for a bipartisan fix on health care.
The Senate defeat of Obamacare repeal and replace legislation preoccupied the president’s tweets this weekend.
He threatened to halt subsidies that help those with modest incomes buy insurance under the current system. “Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don’t go to a 51 vote majority NOW. They look like fools and are just wasting time,” he railed.
But unlike much Senate legislation, the repeal bill defeated early Friday needed only 50 votes — and still came up short. Trump said that “unless the Republican Senators are total quitters, they should vote again.
Senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump will decide on subsidies this week. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of three Republicans who voted against the repeal bill, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump’s threats are worsening instability in insurance markets.
See Newsday’s story by Emily Ngo and Scott Eidler.
The new community organizer
John Kelly, the former four-star Marine general, takes over Monday as Trump’s chief of staff with a mission to bring order, discipline and direction to a flailing, faction-riven White House. So how’s that chain-of-command thing going?
Conway declined to say whether she would report directly to Kelly. Her same non-answer applied to Anthony Scaramucci, whose job as communications director was moved outside the authority of Kelly’s ousted predecessor, Reince Priebus, when he was hired.
Budget director Mick Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he will be reporting to Kelly, but he wasn’t sure about anyone else.
Buzz kill, then and now
The early betting is that Trump won’t give Kelly a demeaning task like he once assigned to former chief of staff Reince Priebus. When a fly began buzzing around Trump’s head during an Oval Office meeting, the annoyed president summoned Priebus and told him to kill it, according to The Washington Post.
Perhaps it was just another step in undoing Barack Obama’s legacy. The 44th president, unassisted, famously hand-swatted a fly during a 2009 TV interview in the White House, showing lightning-fast reflexes. (Video clip here.)
Suffolk sherriff chips in
Trump early Monday retweeted a Fox News promotion of its interview with Suffolk Sheriff Vincent DeMarco in which the official praised the president's MS-13 efforts.
Sessions shuffle floated
Kelly’s new job leaves his old one vacant. Weekend reports said some White House aides were kicking around the idea of moving Attorney General Jeff Sessions from Trump’s doghouse to Homeland Security.
The appeal for Trump would be getting a new attorney general who won’t recuse himself or herself from the Russia investigation, like Sessions did, and could theoretically fire Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller.
It would also probably trigger a backlash from Republicans who want Trump to leave Sessions and Mueller alone. “Bad idea,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
A bootin’ from Putin
Russia’s Vladimir Putin held off on retaliating last December for new U.S. sanctions after Trump, then president-elect, hinted Moscow’s patience would be rewarded.
But it didn’t turn out that way — Congress passed legislation for even tougher sanctions by such overwhelming bipartisan majorities that Trump has to swallow it.
“We had hoped that the situation will somehow change, but apparently if it changes, it won’t be soon,” Putin said as he announced the United States must now cut its embassy and consulate staffing in Russia by 755 — almost two-thirds.
Trump exasperated with China
North Korea’s latest missile test — an ICBM that experts said could reach the U.S. mainland — ignited a tweetburst of frustration from Trump at China, who “could easily solve this problem!”
Trump said, “We will no longer allow this to continue.” Beyond that, his intentions weren’t clear.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted Sunday urging Japan and South Korea to increase pressure and calling for an international solution.
Beyond the talk, the United States flew two supersonic B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula as part of a joint exercise with those two nations.
What else is happening:
- More Americans now want Republicans to work with Democrats to improve Obamacare (47 percent) rather than to try to repeal it outright (21 percent) or replace it with a GOP-only process (19 percent), according to a CBS News poll.
- Campaign funds are moving around the nation into state attorney-general fights, against a backdrop of Trump-time federal-state lawsuits, Reuters reports.
- Was Trump joking last Monday when the told the Boy Scout jamboree that he would fire HHS Secretary Tom Price if the Obamacare repeal failed. “Oh, I think that statement was a humorous comment,” Price said on ABC’s “This Week.” OK then.
- By ridding himself of Priebus, Trump cuts some personal ties to the party that nominated him, Politico reports.
- Vice President Mike Pence arrived Sunday in Estonia for meetings with the presidents of three Baltic nations and is expected to affirm Washington’s commitment to NATO’s mutual defense. He also will visit Georgia and Montenegro.
- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said he would have fed Scaramucci “two bars of soap” for his profane rant about Priebus and Steve Bannon. Scaramucci is his daughter’s boss.